Friday, September 30, 2016

Asking for Directions

It seems like there is the long-standing cliche that men just won’t ask for directions.   Perhaps it was true long ago but now we have GPS devices in our cars.  Of course, the GPS isn’t giving me directions, it’s just confirming when I'll get there!

There is a greater opportunity however for every man and every woman to continually ask for direction, and that is to ask of the Lord.   It’s said that life is a journey and in this journey we need to be getting good direction daily.   It’s recorded in Matthew 7:7-8 that Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened”

Everyone experiences times when they are trying to make a decision and in these times we all need wisdom.   I find that every day there are opportunities for me to ask of the Lord to make sure that I'm making the best decisions and taking the wisest and not just the shortest path.

Asking for direction is often a humbling experience.   Perhaps that is why it's said that men don't ask for directions.  Asking God doesn't mean however that we are lost or incompetent or necessarily less sure of our own capabilities.  It does mean that God is much more able and also willing to provide help in our time of need. 

Humility by the way is something that is actually good to learn and a necessary if we are going to be position to learn and grow.   Being humble puts us in a better position to hear from the Lord.  Psalm 25:9 says, “He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.”  The book of James, the half-brother of the Lord writes, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble." (James 4:6)

When you feel anxious or are confused, seek direction from the Lord.  We do this through prayer.   If you don’t get the wisdom or direction you are looking for at the time, keep praying. I have found that in every situation I’ve prayed about, God ultimately provides direction either directly through His Word, a feeling deep inside that I've learned to recognize is from the Lord,  or a sudden thought that brings clarity.  

Look to God as the one that ultimately provides direction in your life.  He is the one that knows the beginning from the end, He is the creator and the sustainer of the Universe.  You can trust him with your life. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Straight-Line Process Improvement



Students taking Geometry or Calculus will typically learn that the ‘shortest distance between any two points is a straight line.’  While this is true for mathematics and important if you have wings, it’s also true in business process improvement.

In the 1980s American businesses soon learned that the Japanese had perfected the art of process improvement and were turning out products with higher quality at a lower cost than their American competitors.   American business schools and management consultants responded by introducing sophisticated tools and templates for business improvements ultimately leading to methodologies like Six Sigma, Kaizen, and Lean Processes.

While these methodologies are well documented and have worked well for many organizations, they are often difficult to understand at the employee-service level where they need to be implemented.  My response is that one of the best ways to better understand business process improvement is to think of the flow of goods and services from the company to the customer as a line.  The straighter that line becomes, the more opportunity for process improvement.

For example: 

• Retail: Retailers often learn that grouping products together based on type or use make it easier for the consumer to find items quicker, improving customer satisfaction and often earning more of the customer wallet.   Retailers experiment with unusual placements for the benefit of suppliers often at the expense of sales and customer satisfaction

• Services: The objective should be to empower employees at every level so that the both customer and employee satisfaction improves.   Empowerment means true delegation of authority, not just responsibility.

• Professions: Professionals including doctors, attorneys and senior executives often isolate themselves from their customers and clients by employing representatives that are rarely allowed the opportunity to fully support the client.  Processes and customer satisfaction improve when these representatives are adequately trained and empowered to handle the 90% of routine inquiries as professionally as their employer.

• Governments: Traditionally, government agencies are bureaucracies, often more interested in preserving their jobs and benefits than servicing the public.   However, many cities, townships and counties have found ways to make that ‘straight-line’ work for them by empowering these public servants and allowing them to respond to individual inquiries rather than showing the public to the next line or window. 

If a business wanted to improve processes and customer satisfaction while at the same time raising their own employee satisfaction, they should start with the employee in mind.   Empower the employee to identify redundant processes, wasted and inefficient procedures and give them the authority to approve the transactions, variations and respond to customer complaints.

Straight-line process improvement works best when businesses simplify work rules and procedures so that they rely on employees understanding of the ultimate objective.  Clue in everyone in the line from product or service to the customer on the mission, principles and objectives of the organization.  Find ways to the crooked paths straight and reduce unnecessary detours along the way. 


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